Merriam-Webster

From Academic Kids

Merriam-Webster, originally known as the G. & C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, is a United States company that publishes reference books, especially dictionaries that are descendants of Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).

In 1843, after Webster's death, George and Charles Merriam secured publishing and revision rights to the 1840 edition of the dictionary. They published a modest revision in 1847, and a second update with illustrations in 1859. In 1864, Merriam published a much expanded edition, largely overhauling Noah Webster's work, yet retaining Webster's title, "An American Dictionary." This began a series of revisions known as "Unabridged," which became increasingly more "Merriam" than "Webster."

With the edition of 1890, the dictionary was retitled, "Webster's International." The vocabulary was vastly expanded in "Webster's New International" editions of 1909 and 1934, totaling over a half a million words. Merriam overhauled the dictionary again with the 1961 "Webster's Third New International" under the direction of Philip B. Gove, making changes which sparked public controversy. (For more details on these dictionaries, see article, "Webster's Dictionary.")

The "Collegiate Dictionary" series was initiated in 1898. Since the 1940s, the company has added many specialized dictionaries, language aides, and other references to its repertoire.

The G. & C. Merriam Company lost its right to exclusive use of the name "Webster" after a series of lawsuits placed it in public domain. Its name was changed to Merriam-Webster Inc. with the publication of Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary in 1983. The company has been a subsidiary of Encyclopędia Britannica Inc. since 1964.

As of 2003, the company's two best known dictionaries are:

  • Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, the most complete current non-specialist American dictionary of English.
  • Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, the largest and most popular college dictionary.

Merriam-Webster has also published dictionaries of synonyms, English usage, geography, biography, proper names, medical terms, sports terms, slang, Spanish-English, and numerous others. Non-dictionary publications include, Collegiate Thesaurus, Secretarial Handbook, Manual for Writers and Editors, Collegiate Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of Literature, Encyclopedia of World Religions.

The Merriam-Webster company once used a unique set of phonetic symbols in their dictionaries which permitted persons from various parts of the US to learn how to pronounce new words as others who spoke in the same accent or dialect did. This differs from the International Phonetic Alphabet, which can only mandate one specific pronuniciation. Hence the Merriam-Webster form suited the federal nature of the US, while the IPA is more suitable for centralized nations like France. But Unicode did not specify room for these characters in their list. And to enable a variety of computer systems to access the pronunciation, the on-line services of Merriam-Webster specify a less-specific use of ASCII characters, which is not to be confused with the former print fonts.


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